Links between Hong Kong and Southeast Asia are strengthening, as both balance the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic with global challenges posed by supply chain interruptions, inflationary pressures and geopolitical tensions.
The Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC)-organised delegation, led by Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Chief Executive Mr John Lee and accompanied by principal officials concluded a week-long visit to Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia last Friday.
More than 30 senior executives from Hong Kong’s leading chambers, organisations, enterprises and conglomerates joined the delegation to expand networks, discuss collaboration opportunities and strengthen business ties to attract investment and talent
Delegates and representatives of the three ASEAN markets signed more than 30 MoUs signalling closer cooperation based on a shared vision of prosperity and development in Asia.
Delegation members signed seven MoUs in Singapore, 15 in Indonesia and 11 in Malaysia. The MoUs signed in Malaysia included one between the HKTDC and the country’s trade promotion agency MATRADE, as well as one between the HKTDC and the National Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia.
Speaking at a luncheon with the Malaysian business community in Kuala Lumpur on the last day of the visit, Mr Lee pointed out that Malaysia's economic performance was most encouraging, with its GDP growing 8.7% in 2022, the highest growth recorded in decades. For the ASEAN bloc, economic growth was forecast to be 4.6% this year.
“These figures speak a simple truth – that the world's economic centre of gravity is moving eastwards. And it is crucial for us to do all we can in capitalising on this trend of robust growth in our region,” Mr Lee said.
Belt and Road anniversary
As 2023 marked the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and Malaysia, this mission helped advance the steady growth of China-Malaysia relations and strive for greater progress, injecting new impetus to promote prosperity of the two countries and the region, Mr Lee said.
On this three-nation visit, the delegation also introduced the latest opportunities, besides those arising from the Belt and Road Initiative. Another platform for collaboration that the Hong Kong delegation advanced was the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA), a vibrant and rapidly growing market with a population of more than 86 million.
Dennis Chiu Tat-shing, chairman of the Hong Kong Singapore Business Association said many Singaporean businesses felt “very confident” expanding their presence in the GBA using Hong Kong.
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was high on the agenda on the visit meetings, since all ASEAN members are in the giant free-trade pact, which stretches from the fringes of the Arctic (Japan) to the edge of the Antarctic (New Zealand). Hong Kong has applied to join the body.
Hong Kong delegate Dr Jonathan Choi, Chairman of the Hong Kong Chinese General Chamber of Commerce, said admission to the RCEP was a key issue for Hong Kong. The city’s status as a free-trade port, with no tariffs, would make it a perfect fit with RCEP.
Dr Choi said: “Hong Kong is a super-connector between the mainland and the world, especially through the GBA, of which Hong Kong was a core city along with Macao, Shenzhen and Guangzhou.”